Tandemonium in July
Joe Gibbs Racing proved to have one of the strongest teams on the track tonight for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Each of the three JGR drivers showed the ability to make a run to the front of the pack at any point it desired as they raced in two-car pods for each lap of the 160-lap race. There was no secret that teammates Joey Logano and Kyle Busch would partner for tonight’s race especially following last night’s Nationwide Series performance that resulted in a Logano victory. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin entered the weekend with the strategy to partner with the No. 39 car of Ryan Newman from Stewart-Haas Racing after the pair showed success together in February’s Daytona 500.
When the excitement was all over it would be Logano leading JGR with a third-place finish, while Busch came home in fifth, and Hamlin finished 13th.
Busch partnered his No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota with his teammate Logano in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota and the results were impressive all night long. Logano and Busch started 37th and 38th respectively which made it easy to find each other once the green flag dropped to start the race. The two worked their way to the front of the field and were content racing just around the top ten for much of the first half of the race. Logano spent most of the evening pushing his teammate and the two would move to the front of the field with Busch claiming the top spot for the first time just past the midpoint of the race. Busch would lead a total of 11 laps on the night and the two appeared set to race for a victory much as they had done just a night before in the Nationwide Series.
However, with just three laps remaining Jeff Gordon was forced up the track and into Busch and Logano. Although Logano would get through the incident with minimal damage, Busch would have to come down pit road for fresh tires and quick repairs. Perhaps most significant was the fact that when the race restarted for a green-white-checkered finish the two teammates would be separated for the first time all night with Logano in the top ten and Busch all the way toward the back of the field. On the first attempt to conclude the race in a two-lap sprint to the finish Logano had his Home Depot pinned in the middle of the track racing three wide and was forced up into the 5 car of Mark Martin creating a chain reaction that caused damage to several cars. Logano would find himself in the seventh position for the next green-white-checker finish and was able to find a drafting partner in fellow Toyota driver Kasey Kahne. Kahne would push Logano to the front of the field, but the two just fell short of putting the No. 20 Camry in Victory Lane as Logano went on to finish third. Meanwhile Busch would make it through the wreckage to restart 18th on the final restart and an impressive run would see him climb all the way up through the field to earn a fifth-place finish.
Meanwhile Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the 36th position and was content to hang toward the back of the field through the first half of the race along with Newman. When the two decided it was time to go it was an impressive run to the front of the field as Hamlin pushed Newman’s No. 39 all the way to the front and the two took the lead with Newman getting credit for the lap led on lap 106. Hamlin and Newman would switch positions just a couple laps later so the FedEx team would get credit for a lap led. However, the rest of the evening saw Hamlin pushing Newman and for the final 50 laps the two were consistently at the front of the field. After a long green flag run, a late caution would create a green-white-checkered finish. The first attempt would see the Hamlin-Newman pairing take the lead, but an accident would quickly bring out another caution. The pair would restart second and fourth on the next attempt at a green-white-checkered finish which made it easier for Hamlin to get to Newman’s bumper. Unfortunately Newman would get a bit loose and the two were forced into the center of the track causing them to lose their momentum and several positions to the leaders on the final lap. As the field headed into the final turn a large accident would collect Hamlin and send him spinning across the infield grass. He would manage to still go on to finish the race in 13th position.
David Ragan captured the victory, while Matt Kenseth was second, Logano third, Kasey Kahne fourth, and Kyle Busch was fifth. There were six cautions for a total of 20 laps and 58 lead changes among 25 different drivers over the course of the 170-lap race, which was extended 10 laps for two green-white-checker attempts.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Kentucky for the first time in history for the next Saturday night, July 9. Live Coverage on TNT will start at 6:30 PM ET (race starts at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.